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Faith-based Community Agriculture Speaking Engagements

Is your faith-based organization interested in learning more about how community agriculture outreach can enhance your mission? I am currently booking speaking engagements for the summer and early fall in which I share my experiences starting and growing a faith-based community garden that provides fresh produce for our local soup kitchen.  The 30-minute program is a general introduction that includes the reasons, methods, costs, and next steps for launching a community agriculture ministry. The 90-minute program offers a more detailed look at those next steps, tips for securing grant funding, and the Biblical reasoning behind community agriculture. Both programs are free ( I respectfully request travel cost reimbursement for programs delivered more than 50 miles from my home base in Huntersville, North Carolina) and can be "freestanding" or integrated into your board, missions, or ministry meeting.

New Book Is Now Available on Amazon

My new book, Such Is Life in Vacationland , is now available as a paperback or an ebook from Amazon. It is a collection of selected "Field Notes" columns and new content related to my formative years growing up on the Lake Erie coast of Ohio.  The book is FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and priced at $12 for the paperback and $6 for the ebook. A preview of the first three chapters is also available.   

Helping with a Moravian Barn-Raising

Our first-ever Moravian Barn Raising was a big success! It was probably never realistic to get it finished on Saturday, so we took a more experiential approach teaching the kids some fundamentals of construction and safety. A smaller group came out later in the week and finished the primary construction. There’s still some finish work to do and it needs to be stained and roofed, but I am pretty happy with how everything ultimately turned out.

Speaking on Community Gardening in Morven

Yesterday evening, I spoke to a group of community volunteers at the Holla Center in Morven about launching a community garden. In addition to serving as the county’s economic developer, I am a certified gardening instructor and volunteer manager of the New Beginnings Moravian Garden in Huntersville. I will be helping the Morven volunteers get their project off the ground, starting with a load of compost next week.

FIELD NOTES: I yam what I yam

It is common to see semi-trailers emblazoned with "Atlantic Packaging" chugging down U.S. 74 through Wadesboro. But I was under a misconception about these trucks until just last week.  In 1994, as my wife and I were beginning to seriously consider moving to North Carolina, I acquired a list of Charlotte-area businesses from the Chamber of Commerce and sent out a couple of dozen letters along with my resume to gauge potential employment opportunities. The companies I solicited were large and involved in industries I thought would be interesting. It's important to remember that the internet was in its infancy in the mid-'90s. There was no Indeed or Zip Recruiter, or even LinkedIn. The generally accepted way to get your name out there in a city far from home was to send a nice resume package to companies, more or less at random.  One of the companies on my interest list was Atlantic Envelope. Most people probably wonder why an envelope company would interest me; it'

FIELD NOTES: War on ice

On February 15, 1978, Leon Spinks shocked the sports world, beating defending heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali in a nationally-televised fight. Although Ali was entering the twilight of his career and Spinks had won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, no one gave the young fighter much of a chance against the man considered "The Greatest." Most saw it as a warm-up fight for Ali as he prepared to take on the top-ranked contender, Ken Norton. So, it was perhaps a little surprising that more than one-third (34.4 TV rating) of Americans tuned in to CBS to watch the contest. Our household was one of those, even though none of us was a huge boxing fan. Just a few days earlier, though, my whole family, along with millions of others in the Midwest, had spent nearly a week trapped in our house without electricity due to the Blizzard of '78; millions suffering from a bad case of cabin fever and desperately needing the distraction.   In the early days of the COVID pandemic

FIELD NOTES: Always proofreed your work

On Sunday, the Yale Bulldogs defeated the Princeton Tigers to win the Ivy League basketball tournament and secure their berth in the “Big Dance.” The team proudly donned their brand new Ivy League Champions T-shirts, cut down the nets and posed for media photos. There was only one teensy problem; the shirts were misprinted, badly misprinted. Instead of Yale Bulldogs, they touted the champion Yale Bulldgods. You might say it’s a little bit of an embarrassment for one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country to misspell its nickname, but of course, the school had nothing to do with the mistake. I am guessing some quick print shop got the late-night order at the end of the semifinal round and was tasked with producing a couple of dozen champions shirts for both Princeton and Yale. It’s surprising that such an obvious error could slip through, but I know from personal experience it’s tough to proofread your own work because you KNOW what you meant to say.   The Yale gaf

FIELD NOTES: Do you believe in your own lies?

If you have never heard the name Anna Delvey, congratulations. Save yourself the trouble and stop reading now. Walk the dog. Clean the house. Wash the car. Do something productive. But under no circumstances allow yourself to get caught up in the tangled knot of lies, deceit, and narcissism I am about to lay down.   Until a week ago, I had no idea who Anna Delvey was or what her story was about. Then I saw the banner advertising a new series on Netflix, “Inventing Anna.” The synopsis – a journalist chases down the story of Anna Delvey, who convinced New York’s elite she was a German heiress – did not interest me all that much. But it starred Julia Garner, and I was a little curious to see how she would handle a role 180 degrees from her iconic Ruth Langmore character on “Ozark.” Ten hours of my life later, I know more (and less) about Anna Delvey than I ever cared to.   Well written and produced, the nine-episode limited series is like a roller coaster ride, as a continuous string of n

FIELD NOTES: Truck

Ford Motor Company recently announced they are suspending orders for their Maverick (A) compact truck because they have outsold the company's capacity to manufacture them. The Maverick is an anomaly in today's pickup truck market, where bigger is better, and even bigger is even better. My "midsize" Toyota Tacoma is as large as many full-size pickups from the early 2000s. A new full-size F-150 or Silverado wouldn't have looked out of place at a monster truck show in the '70s.  The major truck manufacturers justify their increasingly enormous vehicles by claiming "no market" for smaller trucks. The success of the Maverick, however, would seem to contradict that.  The Maverick is based on the Ford Escape compact SUV, and while it is slightly longer than the Escape, it is significantly smaller than any other pickup currently sold in the U.S. It does not have the towing capacity or off-road capabilities of larger trucks, but it should work just fine for t

FIELD NOTES: Spring football

If you watched the "big game" on Sunday, you know that the Los Angeles Rams scored a touchdown with less than two minutes to play to earn a come-from-behind win over the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a fitting end to arguably the most exciting NFL playoffs ever. It was undoubtedly a better finish than most of the Super Bowls of my youth, which were almost always blowouts. There was a stretch of games in the '80s and '90s where the only drama was whether the absurd margin of victory would exceed the previous year's. During much of that run, I watched the games at a party that was my boss's signature annual event. He always went out of his way to make it a fun time, even when the score was entirely out of hand by halftime; great food and drink, and prizes for things like the total points scored by quarter or the number of passing attempts by a particular QB. But when the party was over, I would always walk out into the frigid Ohio night and think, how will I get th

FIELD NOTES: Rejected!

In his song “Too Soon To Tell,” Todd Snyder sings, “I can still take rejection, but it does get harder to do.” Whether it’s a job interview, choosing sides for kickball, or that cute girl at the school dance, we’ve all experienced rejection, but I have to agree with Todd; it seems like it digs a little deeper and is a little more challenging as we collect miles on the odometer.   I suspect that has to do with opportunity cost. As mentioned in my “Hall of Fame” column a couple of weeks ago, job-seeking, when I was 25, was a game of numbers. I applied for every job I was vaguely qualified for, and whatever rose to the surface stuck. If I interviewed with J. Crew, Graybar Electric or Abacus II (all of which I did, by the way) and struck out, well,  that was fine because I knew eventually I’d find something. These days, I have traveled so far down a relatively narrow path that only a handful of jobs open up each year, so each one is exponentially more important.  The same goes for personal

EVENTS: Author Talks, Hampton B. Allen Library - Monday, February 7, 2022, 11:15 AM

This Monday, February 7, 2022, at 11:15 AM, John will be the featured guest on the Hampton B. Allen Library Author Talks series. He will be discussing his new book, his career as a writer, and his life in rural North Carolina. This will be an online-only event on Facebook Live.   https://www.facebook.com/hbalibrary

FIELD NOTES: Hall of Fame trajectory

Although I grew up a huge football fan and lived most of my early life just two hours from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I only managed to visit it once, and that was under "unconventional" circumstances. In February of 1989, I learned that the software company where I worked was being sold to Microsoft, and within a few weeks, I would be without a job. I did what any recent college grad with lots of bills to pay would do; replied to every newspaper help wanted ad for which I was even vaguely qualified. I got a bite from a Chicago-based company that stocked sporting goods stores with fishing tackle. The title was Regional Sales Representative, but the job was to drive around with a van full of fishing equipment and keep the shelves filled with the latest gear.  I could certainly think of worse ways to make a living, so I was excited when the company contacted me about an interview. The catch was that it was scheduled for early Saturday morning at a meeting room near the Akro

FIELD NOTES: A long winter's nap

I spent much of the past week on the frozen tundra of northern Indiana, attending my father-in-law’s funeral. It was a sad occasion, made all the more so by the oppressive cold, wind, and snow. Whenever I travel north at this time of year, the provocative question that always pops into my head is, why don’t humans hibernate?   Hibernation is an adaptation to cold weather that many animals native to colder climates use to survive the winter. When we hear hibernation, we tend to think of bears, but most hibernating animals tend to be smaller with higher metabolic rates. When their ability to find food is diminished, they effectively “downshift” to a lower rate and enter a sleeplike state that lasts until warmer weather triggers an increase in metabolic function.   Unlike those cold-adapted animals, humans are native to tropical and semitropical regions where food supplies are relatively consistent throughout the year. The migration of humans to colder areas has only happened within the l

FIELD NOTES: On field notes

If you have ever tried Googling my writing, you are probably aware that the term “Field Notes” is not unique to my weekly column. It is, in fact, the name of a printing company in Chicago that produces a series of pocket-size notebooks with very cool cover graphics. Although I use that company’s products, and many of these columns originate as ideas, notations, and doodles in the pages of those notebooks, that’s not where the name of my column originated.  In my short story “The Bug Jar” from my first book, “The Bug Jar and Other Stories,” the protagonist, a young boy named Josh, keeps a journal of his “experiments” on lightning bugs in a spiral notebook. On the cover, he has carefully printed the words “Field Notes.” I have no idea why I chose those particular words, although I suppose I was trying to represent his scientific aspirations. That story was written in the late ’90s, long before I knew of the notebooks. Indeed, the printing company wasn’t established until 2007, so there i